Saturday, November 10, 2007

Naive technophiles

Mass production will soon begin on the XO, the "$100 laptop" that MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte believes will change the world. Behind the dream of empowering children through technology, however, lies a reality more complicated and far less idealistic. Professor Negroponte believes his non-profit One Laptop per Child (OLPC) can help solve "whatever big problem you can imagine, from world peace to the environment to hunger to poverty." Early reviews of OLPC's finished product extol its many innovative features. None of these reviews, however, mention what the XO fails to provide, such as a source of clean drinking water, abundant and nutritious food, or medicines for curable diseases....

OLPC's business model actually requires substantial investment from the governments of developing countries, diverting limited resources away from a population's critical needs. The "$100 laptop," which actually costs $188, can only be purchased at a minimum quantity of 250,000. OLPC targets countries like Nigeria, where one out of three children suffer from malnutrition. There a $50 million minimum investment could instead be used to feed more than a million children for an entire year.

After unloading their product, OLPC relies on the naive assumption that governments will distribute laptops free of charge to deserving schoolchildren. This blind trust in corrupt governments will deprive children and ensure the creation of a robust XO black market.

Children will suffer if governments divert scarce resources away from essential services. To avoid that outcome, professor Negroponte should channel his ingenuity into a product compatible with existing markets. Success will be achieved not by forcing technology on children, but by bringing children to technology.

More here



Hillary fading? "After striding surefooted through the foothills of the Democratic presidential contest, Hillary Clinton's frontrunning campaign has spent the past week tripping itself up. The mis-steps began last Wednesday with one wobbly answer in a television debate - on whether to allow illegal immigrants drivers' licences. Mrs Clinton's response, in all its varied forms, has raised fresh questions about her candidacy. Her opponents ask if she is honest... A clutch of opinion polls over the past two days suggest that her support nationally among Democratic voters has ebbed from a high of more than 50 per cent to the low to mid 40s. One poll in New Hampshire, a key early primary contest which has always been seen as her firewall if she loses the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, shows her margin over Barack Obama falling from 16 points to ten. The loss of support has been greatest among male voters, widening an existing gender gap. For instance, the New Hampshire survey found that while 40 per cent of Democratic women have a "very favourable" view of Mrs Clinton, only 22 per cent of the state's Democratic male voters say the same. A national poll yesterday suggested that only 36 per cent of women would not vote for her, compared with 50 per cent of men."

Mukasey confirmed: "The Senate late Thursday narrowly confirmed former federal Judge Michael Mukasey as the 81st attorney general, giving the nominee the lowest level of congressional support of any Justice Department leader in the past half-century. The 53-40 vote came after more than four hours of impassioned floor debate, and reflected an effort by Democrats to register their displeasure with Bush administration policies on torture and the boundaries of presidential power. Seven senators, including those running for president, did not vote."

The Dems like the idea of voter fraud: "Measures that curb voter fraud on the one hand and encourage it on the other will be central to the 2008 election. The Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of Indiana's photo ID law next spring, while lawsuits challenging Gov. Spitzer's moves will be in New York state courts. Despite her muddled comments this week, there's no doubt where Mrs. Clinton stands on ballot integrity. She opposes photo ID laws, even though they enjoy over 80% support in the polls. She has also introduced a bill to force every state to offer no-excuse absentee voting as well as Election Day registration--easy avenues for election chicanery. The bill requires that every state restore voting rights to all criminals who have completed their prison terms, parole or probation.

GOP recovery?: "Gloom hangs over Republicans when they think of next year's elections - but it shouldn't. The sea change in political fortunes between 2004 and 2006 should not remind Righties only that the winds can change quickly - from a supportive breeze at your back, to a gale-force wind in your face - they should also be reminded that the political landscape can get better fast, too. Next year could be a surprisingly good one for the GOP, though it's clearly not guaranteed. The party will need good candidate recruitment, message discipline, a clear, unifying agenda, and a bit of good luck. But on a wide variety of fronts, there are pieces of good news"

Obsolete British military equipment endangering lives: "An RAF Nimrod flying over southern Afghanistan put out a Mayday call and made an emergency landing at Kandahar air base on Monday after crew found fuel pouring into the bomb bay. The aircraft was in the middle of refuelling when the crew discovered what several sources described as "a major fuel leak" in the bomb bay. The pilot immediately declared an emergency and broke off refuelling. It is a repeat of an incident in September last year, when an RAF Nimrod exploded over Kandahar province killing all 14 on board. The board of inquiry into that incident has yet to report but that Nimrod, tail number XV230, had just refuelled in mid-air and the board's initial findings blamed pressure from the air-to-air refuelling system for forcing a serious leak. The pilot of XV230 reported a fire in his bomb bay and attempted to land at Kandahar. He dropped 20,000 feet in just 90 seconds but at 3,000 feet the starboard wing exploded, followed by the rest of the aircraft" [The Nimrods are a military version of the old De Haviland Comet of the 1950s]

Arabs seeking Israeli citizenship: "The number of East Jerusalem residents seeking Israeli citizenship has risen sharply in recent months, an Israeli official said Wednesday, as talk of a possible re-division of the city gains momentum. The Interior Ministry has received hundreds of applications for citizenship from Arab residents of East Jerusalem over the past few months, instead of the average of several dozen, said ministry spokeswoman Sabine Hadad. Hadad was unable to provide specific figures but said there has been an increase of hundreds... When Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967, the city's Arabs were given the opportunity to become citizens, yet they rejected it because they refused to acknowledge Israeli control over the city"

I wonder why?: "A scurrilous new e-mail is circulating about Barack Obama. Over the last few months there were the ones that suggested he was secretly hiding his Muslim faith. The messages suggest he refused to pledge allegiance this summer at a steak fry hosted by Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin.


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"Why should the German be interested in the liberation of the Jew, if the Jew is not interested in the liberation of the German?... We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time... In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.... Indeed, in North America, the practical domination of Judaism over the Christian world has achieved as its unambiguous and normal expression that the preaching of the Gospel itself and the Christian ministry have become articles of trade... Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist". Who said that? Hitler? No. It was Karl Marx. See also here and here and here.

The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialistisch) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party".


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